Many of us won’t ever forget Nicholas Green, the 7-year-old Bodega Bay boy who adored make-believe and books and combing beaches for shells and bones, and who went on vacation to Italy with his family in 1994 and didn’t come home.
Nicholas was asleep in the back seat of a rental car, his sister, Eleanor, 4, right beside him, when two men in another car tried to force their father, Reg, to stop on a darkened highway north of Sicily.
As Reg struggled to evade them, his wife, Maggie, turned in the front passenger seat to check on her children. Both slumbered through the terrifying chase.
“A moment later,” Reg would recall, “there was a deafening shot, and the window behind the driver’s window where the children were sleeping was blown in, obviously by a bullet.”
Reg escaped the would-be robbers and a ways down the highway was able to stop safely. He opened the door and as the dome light came on he saw that Nicholas had not stirred, and his tongue was out.
A bullet had struck him in the head. Two days later, Nicholas was pronounced brain dead. His parents then did something that changed the world.
Maggie and Reg donated Nicholas’ vital organs and corneas to seven Italians, four of them teenagers, in dire need of transplants.
Heartbroken Italians embraced the Greens and re-thought their historic resistance to organ donation. The life-giving donations tripled in Italy and increased elsewhere around the world.
The story of Nicholas Green became a made-for-TV movie that starred Jamie Lee Curtis. Reg Green published “The Nicholas Effect,” which recounted his son’s life and death, and how Italy’s response to the transplants opened hearts and minds everywhere to the prospect of giving life through organ donations.
There are many memorials to Nicholas, who is buried in Bodega. I hope you know of the exquisite Children’s Bell Tower at the Bodega Bay Community Center on Highway 1.
Suspended from it are dozens of splendid bells, most donated by Italian people and one by Pope John Paul II.
The Greens moved years ago to Southern California but will return to Bodega Bay this summer. Eleanor, who’s now 28 and teaching history and government in Los Angeles, and her fiancé, Matt Burgette, will marry alongside Nicholas’ bell tower.
“Nicholas has served as an inspiration for so many people around the world,” Eleanor said, “but to me he’s still simply my big brother and I want him there on one of the most meaningful days of my life.”
A PARTY AT SRJC simply wasn’t a party unless Cheryl Hanson was neck-deep into planning the hijinks and costumes, skits, music and all.
One time, Hanson, long the leader of the JC’s Tutorial Center, pulled off a surprise mock wedding for two colleagues who thought their planned nuptials was a well-kept secret.
Hanson orchestrated also an “Evening in Paris” retirement party with champagne, silk dresses, thin mustaches, bad accents and performances for the honoree by a faux but fabulous Lady Gaga and Édith Piaf.
The send-off Hanson plotted for a College Skills/Tutorial math instructor who loves baseball had well-wishers in team caps singing “Take Me Out to the Math Lab.”